The nature of the relationship between President John F. Kennedy and actress Marilyn Monroe (that, depending upon which sources one believes, ranged anywhere from a nodding acquaintance to an ongoing sexual affair) has long intrigued the public and historians alike. A candid, through-the-shutters photograph like the one displayed above, seemingly capturing the famous (and unaware) couple sharing an unguarded, intimate moment, would therefore be an object of considerable fascination and interest.
If it were real, that is. This picture is the work of artist Alison Jackson, whose métier is creating images of famous figures from the worlds of entertainment and politics, apparently caught in revealing private moments, by posing look-alikes in place of the celebrities:
Alison Jackson has photographed the Queen of England on the toilet, George Bush and Tony Blair chatting in the sauna, Paris Hilton bribing her fellow inmates and Monica Lewinsky lighting Bill Clinton’s cigar. Or has she? The likenesses are uncanny, but of course, her subjects are look-alikes.
Her photos demonstrate that while seeing is believing, the truth is another story entirely. In her work, Jackson says, “Likeness becomes real and fantasy touches on the believable. The viewer is suspended in disbelief. I try to highlight the psychological relationship between what we see and what we imagine. This is bound up in our need to
look — our voyeurism — andour need to believe.” Indeed, by showing “celebrities” ostensibly caught unawares, Jackson’s pictures show us what we imagine might go on behind closed doors. Her work has caused controversy, not least because it treads in a very gray area between parody and realism by seeming to break down the carefully fortified private lives of public figures.
Additional examples of Ms. Jackson’s work in this genre can be viewed here.
Last updated: 16 January 2015
Ebony magazine. “Portraits of the Stars.” August 1985.